April 28, 2015 Subject:
English Translation of the Introduction
Whoever studies a new language feels urgently the need to possess an elementary text, a collection of everyday words and practical phrases which can facilitate communication between himself and the stranger with whom he tries to be understood. Yet up till now, French and Vietnamese people, save for honorable exceptions, have hardly understood one another without the help of a bastard language and expressive gestures. Above all they request anything, a small book, even one as small as possible!..... It is this which we dare to offer for the benefit of the public.
This little book is of course far from being complete: it is an attempt that has absolutely no pretention at being without defect. Composed firstly for the use of the students who study French at the Mission School, this manual is only a collection of words and phrases which are the most necessary to begin. It is a start, which begs leniency, that it be acquired with the advance knowledge that it will become less and less imperfect over time.
We enter now into some details which render the usage of this modest work easier and more practical. The old missionaries have, over two hundred years ago, invented an orthography which has been universally adopted and which we have not felt the need to modify: it has passed the test of time and defied all reforms. One can learn it in an hour!... if only in the most crude sense.
Although the Vietnamese language is easy to write, it is a little more difficult to speak; not to the point where the grammar is particularly complicated, though it has many arbitrary-seeming particles; but that our French voice does not have the custom of modulating its sounds. One must employ certain letters and certain diacritics according to convention which aim to represent particular intonations unfamiliar to European ears. At the point that one is familiar with the writing and has become slightly accustomed to the pronunciation, the study of Vietnamese will be nothing more than recreation.